The Marine Science Institute's monthly column, Science and the SeaTM, is an informative and entertaining article that explains many interesting features of the marine environment and the creatures that live there.  Science and the SeaTM articles appear monthly in one of Texas' most widely read fishing magazines, Texas Saltwater Fishing, the Port Aransas South Jetty newspaper, the Flour Bluff News, and the Island Moon newspaper. Our article archive is available also on our website.

May 1, 2007

Octopi, squids, and cuttlefishes, collectively known as cephalopods, are intelligent invertebrates that have the ability to change the color of their skin. One reason they change color is to camouflage themselves from predators and prey.

But, they also use changes in color to communicate. Communication is critical for animals because it can help them reproduce or survive. These particular cephalopods use color signals to exchange information about mating, aggression, or danger.

April 1, 2007

A cherry red sports car passes by and catches everyone’s eye. A brilliant red hibiscus is a centerpiece in a lush tropical garden. It seems impossible for anything having a crimson hue to be inconspicuous. But that’s precisely what some marine animals are.

Red snapper, several kinds of rockfishes, and even some shrimps that live in moderately deep water are covered with red pigment. Yet in their natural habitat, they are virtually invisible.

March 1, 2007

The next time you have a chance, take a close look — a really close look — at a shark’s head.  Under the snout and around the mouth you will notice hundreds of tiny pores.  These are the openings of jelly-filled sacs known as ampullae of Lorenzini, and they give the shark the ability to sense electricity.

February 1, 2007

Corals are the fundamental building blocks for spectacular reefs that decorate tropical seas throughout the world.A single coral head is actually a colony of individual organisms, called polyps, and each polyp has its own stony skeleton which is joined to its neighbor’s skeleton. Together, the colony forms a massive outcropping on the sea floor that functions as a single animal.


January 1, 2007

Far above the Arctic Circle in northern Alaska, scientists are studying how global climate change is altering the ecosystem.Because they are frozen for most of the year, environments near the North Pole are especially susceptible to change, particularly to the worldwide increases in carbon dioxide and air temperature.

December 1, 2006

The economies of many countries depend on an abundant supply of fish from the sea.  This is as true today as it was a century ago.  But commercial fishermen have always known that the ocean’s harvest is not always bountiful — some years are better than others.

November 1, 2006

Imagine an ancient sea creature with large, bulky scales, a pair of huge, menacing eyes, reaching over seven feet long and weighing in at over 200 pounds.  Now imagine this creature hooked to the end of your fishing rod.  As you begin to fight this monster, it leaps, repeatedly, out of the water to alarming heights.  Finally, after what seems like an eternity, the monster is subdued.

October 1, 2006

Have you ever wondered why the birds in Alfred Hitchcock’s famous movie The Birds seemed deranged? Hitchcock may have been inspired by a real event that took place in Capitola, California in 1961. 

Shearwaters, a type of oceanic bird, ingested anchovies that were feeding on a bloom of toxic algae. The neurotoxin produced by the algae moved through the food web from algae to fish to bird and caused the birds to fly erratically.

August 30, 2006

People tremble at the sound of its name, “hurricane.”  Last year, monstrous hurricanes, one after the other, battered the Gulf Coast with their menacing power.

Katrina had more power than thousands of Hiroshima atomic bombs combined. Where do these hurricanes get this enormous energy?

July 31, 2006

Offshore oil rigs and other man-made structures in the sea attract large numbers of fishes and other marine life. But have you ever wondered why? It’s the same reason coral reefs contain so many kinds of life - complexity.

Flat, sandy bottoms and open water offer very little structure for organisms to live in or on. In these featureless areas, fish densities tend to be low. However, like the corals on a reef, oil platforms add complexity to the open ocean, and become the foundation for what are essentially artificial reefs.